Here we go again. All-star producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are launching a new light-hearted comic book superhero show which is getting a high-profile launch next season and has released a trailer which is pretty much the pilot episode condensed down to 5-6 minutes. Last year, it was The Flash; this year, it’s Supergirl. However, last year there was a sea of good will floating Flash’s way, the CW throwing more money at them to make a big budget pilot instead of a backdoor pilot within Arrow. Supergirl, on the other hand, is a genuinely brand new show with characters we’ve never met before even if we recognize some of their names, like Jimmy Olsen. Moreover, Supergirl has not had nearly as smooth a ride to a series pick-up, with reports of CBS souring on the pilot and shopping it to The CW until CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler watched and fell in love with the show.
Now, Supergirl is set to debut on Monday nights in November, and the entire pilot is summarized in this trailer:
Melissa Benoist’s lead character Kara Zor-El is a twenty-four-year-old “who was taken in by the Danvers family when she was 12 after being sent away from Krypton, but now must learn to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.” Her love interest is a race-switched Jimmy Olsen played by Mehcad Brooks, her boss at a media conglomerate is Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), her foster sister is Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), and that X-Files-esque quasi-adversary is Hank Henshaw (Homeland‘s David Harewood).
I have 10 reactions to all of this:
1. I can’t believe this is airing on CBS
Maybe it’s the way the pilot starts with “My name is Kara Zor-El” ala Arrow’s “My Name is Oliver Queen” or Flash’s “My Name is Barry Allen,” but this instantly looks more like a CW show than CBS, albeit with a slightly bigger budget. Moreover, its primary message is girl power, which is more of an ABC thing than CBS. Heck, at times this looks like a MTV show.
2. It’s almost like a superhero show in which Arrow‘s Felicity Smoak is nerd by day, superhero by night
Maybe I just think that because Kara has a nearly identical fashion sense and is similarly awkward around guys. Melissa Benoist seems to be playing it a little bit bigger than Emily Bett Rickards ever has.
3. It’s refreshing seeing a woman get a chance to do the whole “Run down the alleyway and experiment with superpowers for the first time” thing.
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man did it. Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen did it in The Flash pilot. Now, Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl gets to take flight for the first time after getting a running start in an alleyway.
4. Are they purposefully making an homage to the weird X-Files era of Superboy?
With Supergirl partnering with/battling against an X-Files-like task force, I thought of the era of the old syndicated Superboy TV show in which Clark Kent and Lana Lane interned at The Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters where they could Mulder & Scully their way through stories.
5. How many people are going to know her secret identity by the end of the pilot?
Obviously her sister already knows, but apparently so will everyone else other than her boss.
6. They sidestepped the whole “Are glasses really going to fool anyone into not recognizing her as Supergirl?” thing
Man of Steel dealt with this with Superman by completely dropping it until the very end.
7. I did not expect a feminist breakdown of the suitability of using the name Supergirl instead of Superwoman
They clearly felt that was necessary, but it comes off like they’re pre-emptively defending themselves from some imaginary attack. I would have rather seen that moment played for humor, like Cat Grant agreeing that if there is a Superman his cousin should logically be called Superwoman but they ran it past marketing who concluded “Supergirl” looks better on t-shirts. Then again, maybe that would have seemed too flippant about it.
8. It would be easier if this was set in the same fictional universe as Man of Steel
Superman is kind of all over the trailer without actually being in it beyond a solo photograph, which makes sense since how do you really do a show about Superman’s cousin without referring to Superman. However, it’s also slightly confusing since we have a cinematic version of Superman running around in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. The DC films and TV shows are separate meaning this version on Supergirl has nothing to do with the Henry Cavill Superman. The films are clearly aiming for a wildly different tone than the TV shows, as if the unrelentingly grim films are meant for the adults and the fun TV shows for the young teenagers and little kids. Still, it would be less confusing for audiences if this was simply a TV offshoot of Man of Steel, making Kara’s moment of describing the “S” symbol as her family’s coat of arms a direct reference to Clark Kent’s “It stands for hope” Man of Steel moment. But everyone managed to deal with Smallville and Superman Returns co-existing. Plus, I suppose Supergirl is going to be that more Christopher Reeves version of the Superman universe which so many people missed in Man of Steel.
9. Their version of Flash‘s Cisco is a male fashionista
The guy who wants to ask Kara out at the beginning turns into the show’s version of Cisco from The Flash, helping her design the costume and identify unfolding crimes to foil. One of the rejected costume ideas during that sequence is a jokey reference to one of Supergirl’s actual comic book costumes over the years.
10. That airplane scene is the clear highlight
It is Frozen-esque that Supergirl’s first act as a hero is to save her own sister, and the sequence stands out as the real highlight of the trailer. Melissa Benoist’s exasperated, “Oh, come on!” in response to the bridge looming in the distance is her finest moment.
Based on this trailer, I’d say the Supergirl pilot is not going to be anywhere near as strong as The Flash’s, which had a clearly defined sense of direction, built-in mystery surrounding the death of Barry Allen’s mother, and Smallville-esque story generator whereby the accident (i.e., the particle accelerator explosion) that creates The Flash also creates all of his villains. I can see why The CW went crazy over it just as I can see why CBS was a little nervous about Supergirl.
However, I am reminded of a moment at The Flash‘s panel appearance at Paleyfest LA a couple of months ago. When they reached the section of the evening where they take questions from the audience, a little boy, probably no more than 8-years-old, stepped to the mic and opened with “My name is Barry Allen.” Admirably undeterred by the instantaneous applause greeting his declaration, he continued to recite The Flash‘s opening monologue word for word. Grant Gustin, joined on stage by the show’s entire cast as well as producers, seemed especially delighted. The little kid ended his triumphant moment by assuring Grant he’d always be his Flash (a knock on the upcoming movie starring Ezra Miller). It was a heartwarming moment and far from the only time little kids made their presence felt at the appearance. The possibility of Supergirl making it to Paleyfest LA next year where a little girl might step to the mic to declare “My name is Kara Zor-El” as her love letter to the show and Melissa Benoist is not something I would want to take away from anyone.